Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mint Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

With a name like mine, you know you can trust me when I tell you this dessert is not only Christmasy, but it's delectable!  With a smooth buttermilk cake batter, topped with a chocolate gananche and then sprinkled with crushed candy cane pieces and dust, this might be the best thing you taste this season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shepherd's (watching over their flocks by night) Pie

It's comfort food time.  It's cold out.  The holidays are almost here.  And while I could post recipes of reindeer sausage or a Kingly dessert of sorts, I'm going with Shepherd's pie.

This is one of those dishes that mom would make for dad to say "I love you."  We felt the love eating it too.  

There are so many ways to make Shepherd's pie.  This is my version.  Simple, bold, flavorful.  And while many versions include ground lamb (yummy), Shepherd's care for and guard their sheep.  They eat beef for dinner.  Wouldn't want to offend their fluffy friends.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dining Out: Hash House A Go Go, San Diego, CA

Hash House A Go Go.  Don't knock a restaurant just cause it has five words in the name.  They coined their style "twisted farm food."  It doesn't get any cooler than that in San Diego, CA.

Obviously visiting in July, Chris decided to sport his Rainbows, feeling right at home in his old college stomping grounds.  We love this city.

When Chris and I first started dating, I would drive down from LA on a Saturday morning and we would start our day with a breakfast date (still my favorite kind) to Hash House A Go Go.  When visiting this summer, we just had to go back for old times sake.  It's still busier than ever, and for good reason.  Always plan on a line.  It's so worth the wait though, so don't get discouraged.  Stick it out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dining Out: MacDuff's Pub, South Lake Tahoe, CA

We got our first frost last night.  Sounds silly, but it's a big deal down here in Suburban Roseville.  You know everyone will be all bundled as they hit the malls this afternoon, crossing more Christmas items off their lists.

In case this frosty weather is enticing you up to Tahoe for a ski at Heavenly, you might want to stop in (or end the day at) MacDuff's Public House.

Upon our recent trip to South Lake Tahoe, we needed a restaurant that would meet particular criteria:

Good food.

Good drink.

Stay warm.

Has football on.

And possesses "character."

That last one was important to me.  Dining is not just about the food, it's about the experience.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cast Iron Cornbread

Do you have a cast iron skillet? I've had one for about a year. We joke that it was probably one of the biggest days in 2012 for us (before all the baby excitement, that is). In one crazy post-Christmas shopping day experience, I purchased my beloved Le Creuset (big red pot that makes its appearance in about every other post), my "apple child" (iPad) and we threw a cast iron pan in the mix just for fun.  Good things come in threes, right?

The cast iron skillet: easy to clean, even heat distribution, provides great sears and can be used for just about anything. It's a contender for making it into the new born shots when baby Ritter is born. Okay, I'm kidding... well maybe not. But you can see how much I love it.

One thing it does well is...

CORNBREAD.  Perfect crust.  Perfectly savory sweet.  Perfectly corny (in the foodie way). :-)

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Granola Ever

What do you think of when I say "granola?" Do you think of that Quaker Oats stuff? Do you think of a walk of life a little bit more, (how should we put it?), "natural and one with the earth" than yourself?

My earliest memory was of the granola my mother would buy. I would spend precious minutes in the morning picking out the raisins from my mix. You'd think I'd just find another cereal, but I really loved the oats part. Somewhere along the way I OD'd on those little red boxes of raisins as a kid... and thus the scavenging to "fix" my bowl of cereal.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Manhattan Fish Chowder


Faithful readers and home cooks: thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Sometimes blogging is like exercise. You know you will feel better when you finish, but some days are more challenging to write than others. So essentially, it's a long way of saying: THANK YOU. I may cook for the people around my table, but YOU, out there, are the reason I write about it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Embarrassingly Simple: Seasoned Edamame

We all have standards.

In-n-Out, favorite local pizza place, best cup of coffee ever, most enjoyable Pinot Noir... I could go on.

We'll dabble, try new things, play along with someone else's favorite- but let's be honest: it doesn't compare to your standard.

It's how we feel about Sushi.  I can enjoy a mid-night sushi bar just like anyone else, but it's always a "B" compared to Mikuni, a small Sacramento chain that will soon sweep the nation.  They just opened a new location in Vegas (aspiring dining city).   See? I'm not just making this up!  Even Vegas wants them!

We love their sushi, but we also love their "Freaky Edamame."  It's a perfectly spiced appetizer to wet your palate for a few sushi rolls.  I've been resorting to their "non-raw" rolls since the baby news, but it's been good to try new things.  Good thing edamame is not forbidden for pregnancy.  I could eat these little green guys by the handful.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken Fried Rice

I love recycled leftovers. Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but this is as easy as it gets folks! Chicken fried rice: no rules, tasty, fast and saves well.

Feel free to add what sounds good to you. Pees, edamame, bell pepper, beans- this recipe is just to get you started.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Heavenly Bake

Okay, so I'm on a bit of a kick this week: Sweet potato soup, Sweet potato hash, Roasted sweet potato... all because I bought a ton of sweet potatoes in preparation to make THIS dish.

Last Thanksgiving we were invited to our neighbor's Thanksgiving gathering. It was potluck style (food and people) every different kind of dish and walk of life... that's Portland for ya.

To be honest, I don't even remember what I brought, but what I do remember was this sweet potato dish. I shamelessly scraped the last of this dish when it came through the second time. If I hadn't been in the presence of strangers I might have licked it clean, maybe I should have anyway. I sheepishly asked the next day if I could find out who made it and stalk them for the recipe. She said it was her chef brother (of course). I thought it tasted chefly.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Warm German Potato Salad

Some side dishes I could take or leave. This is one you will not want to leave till it's GONE. It's more savory than your typical German potato salad, which is why I like it. The vinegar and the sweet red onion make this dish a hit. I'm so glad A Feast For The Eyes finally decided to share her family's heirloom treasure.

The recipe is straight from Debby's Mutti, German for mother, who grew up in Bavaria. We had a few students who were embarking on a year abroad in Germany a few months back. While they were probably gonna get sick of meat and potatoes, I decided it was a good excuse to do some German cooking! Caleb and Charlene, we love and miss you!

With a married name like Ritter, I figured I needed to branch into some German cooking. No wonder Chris is such a meat and potatoes guy. Let it be said, I married into the name, I like my lighter sides as a rule. But this one hit the spot. I felt like Chris' Grandfather Fred would be proud... as he is always recounting his German ways and reciting German phrases he knows by heart.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Food Buzz Festival Recap

No recipes this time. Just photos and fun. Two weekends ago I fulfilled my promise to Debby from A Feast For The Eyes to attend the Food Buzz Festival in San Francisco. What a fun time?! Not to mention one of the best weekends of weather in SF I've ever witnessed. My plate was never empty!

The weekend began with a cocktail party full of networking and appetizers.

Sarah from Meals Matter and Debby from A Feast For The Eyes
Duck Breast with Li Hing Chutney on Rice Cracker

Thursday, October 18, 2012

(Not-So-Skinny) Skinny Artichoke Dip

What makes all things better? So many ways to answer that. For me I think of sweet family, cherished friends and hot dishes.

Family: I'm very passionate about family. I happen to love mine. We really do have a lot of fun together. While there may have been a screaming war or two from time to time, we really do all love each other- the hard kind of crazy love. Where forgiveness abounds, maybe not immediately but it will. Where we would give our lives or at least organs for one another. Where even our arguments stem out of love because we want what's best for the relationship. Family love makes me think of my relationship with my sister... our relationship was exemplified by my mother's relationship with her sisters. Even from a distance, or email- love, late night phone calls and prayer have been exchanged.  The Marks sisters remind me of my Aunt Cheryl who is battling a challenging form of Leukemia in Seattle. We patiently await further treatment recommendations and a possible family bone marrow transfusion. My earliest memory of my Aunt Cheryl is when she came to visit us from Alaska and brought nearly an entire suitcase of artichokes back with her. Something I can really respect now- going to the extremes for seasonal ingredients. I LOVE YOU AUNTIE CHERYL. Keep fighting! You've got a niece in Cali who thinks of you every time she cook with artichokes!

Photography by Tyler Yates

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Perfect Guacamole

Now I understand we all have our reasons for why we think our guacamole is best. Open your mind for a minute and let me present my case. And if you are still not convinced after my argument then... well... I'm pregnant and craving Mexican and you don't want to argue with this cook! Okay, okay... I welcome comments :-) I apologize for my feistiness.

So about these cravings- I've made guac about 8 times this month. Breakfast burritos in the morning, taco salad for lunch, enchiladas and tortilla soup for dinner! I can't get enough! And we have been celebrating avocados this week because Baby Ritter is the size of an avocado.

Also, it's football season! And when your team is not playing well, it's time to focus on the food at hand, (Cowboys, let's pick it up!) and good guac is a staple game day food.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Oxtail and Barley Soup to Welcome Fall

I was giddy walking to my car yesterday. I was cold. Yes, cold. Funny how you can forget that sensation during the summer. Cold is so welcomed in the Fall and then so disdained come late March.

So in celebration of fleeces, uggs, and waaaaaay too many Pinterest Fall decor and craft ideas... I give you one of my most comforting soups. Perfect to come home to after a Sunday drive through the country, after waiting in the cold for your kid's coach to wrap up practice, or after an afternoon of apple picking.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lentil Salad with Grapes, Chile and Cilantro

My last lentil salad recipe was quite the hit. I've made it a dozen times over, so yum. Is it possible to top it?

Well, let's just say you can't compare the perfections of Spring to the majesty of Fall. The only thing this salad has in comparison to the last one is LENTILS as an ingredient. Other than that, these lentils are dressed with a completely different and delicious ensemble.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Baked Salmon with Garden Goodies

Gaaaasp! I'm back. 14 weeks of pregnancy behind me. Time for some FOOD! How does Salmon sound?

We are on the tail of a massive Fall heat stroke, so it was time to enjoy the last of my garden goodies.

This recipe is inspired by Giada De Laurentiis. I used the last of my fresh tomatoes along with thyme and oregano from my garden.

It's a kid friendly meal too... I mean, who can't throw a bunch of items in foil and roll it up like a tootsie roll?  My kind of fun.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guest Post: Crockpot Pumpkin Bread from Lawrence Family Chronicles

Happy First Day of Fall!!!

Speaking of Fall, I know I have rather "fallen" off the blogging wagon lately but this "child growing inside of me thing" has preoccupied my body in this first trimester.  But I believe I'm turning a new leaf (autumn pun intended!) and feeling a little more myself this week.  I'm so excited to post some wonderful dishes just in time for my favorite season of cooking!  But today, I welcome my friend Brittany and fellow blogger to guest post from Lawrence Family Chronicles on her appropriately timed Pumpkin Bread.  And this is NO ordinary Pumpkin Bread!  Read on...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pappardelle with Crab, Buttered Artichokes and Mint

Pasta. Unlikely duos. Flipping through a cook book is like channel surfing AND THEN YOU STOP. You put down the remote. And read on about a perfect combination of ingredients. That's what Tyler Florence does for food. It makes me take pause.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Embarrassingly Simple: Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas Rolled in Walnuts

What are you doing for Labor Day Weekend? On the go? Weddings? Potluck with the neighbs? If you're hosting, this fun frozen treat is a real winner for kids and adults. It takes no time at all, has great texture, and is perfect to wave goodbye to Summer and hello to Fall with (one hand waiving, one hand holding your frozen treat).  I love dessert on a stick!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Badass Brownies"

I'm not usually one to use the term "badass," but if I do incoorporate any profanity into my writing you know it's deserving. These brownies were named by a chef and baker from Portland, OR, who is indeed herself pretty badass: Ker Jensen. This is the video I watched when scouring the internet for something to bake for our wine-get together a month back. I was looking for something decadant, over the top, comforting and bad (the good kind of bad).

Urban dictionary's definition reads: an uncommon man of supreme style. I like that. Now, while the brownie is common, this badass brownie is will redefine your definition of brownie. Seriously if you didn't watch the video yet... you must watch before reading on. She's intense so put your big girl/boy pants on for this one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We'll take a table for THREE please!!!

I'm happy to announce that we'll be adding another chair to our Joyful Table. :-)

Shorting after telling our visiting friends Ruben and Kat from Portland. 
Chris and I are elated, shocked, giddy and totally foreign to all of these feelings. A baby! What are we getting into?! A new adventure, that's for sure. So much for taking on canning, new seafood and other culinary challenges... pretty sure parenting may top it all!

Chris has been a champ in catering to my sickness and lack of cooking... serving me snacks in bed and agreeing to go out for Mexican several days a week (it's just so rough for the guys... right?!)

I apologize ahead of time for gaps of time in posting. To say I'm in love with food right now would be a bold faced lie. These are rather new feelings I've been having while in the kitchen... lacking motivation to cook, unsure of what I am hungry for, and not wanting anything but... crackers?  But knowing this is all for BABY Ritter, makes it worth it.

Lucky for you, I have some FANTASTIC recipes and photos that are lined up... I just have to get a hold of my health before I get consistent again. Stay tuned and thank you ahead of time for the support.

If you are interested in a video of how we told my parents at Sterling Vineyards in Napa... check out this clip.

-The Joyful Table... of Three

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wello-Berry Jam (Strawberry, Raspberry and Blueberry Preserves)

I had declared 2012 my year of canning. So far I'm 1 for 1. Not a bad batting average, but I admit I was rather intimidated about the whole thing. Luckily, my sweet friend Liz from Portland gave me a book on canning in the southern tradition as a going away gift before we moved. She wasn't going to let me forget my declaration.

Canning is a funny thing. Oregon completely opened my eyes to do-it-yourself ideas. Making jam only scratched the surface.

I attended a chapstick making party (my favorite flavor was a orange-sage), made friends who made their own shampoo/conditioner/hair product, and was given home-made laundry detergent as a Christmas gift! I don't care what you all think... I learned so much from these women! Some of it was for fun, some of it was for controlling the chemical ingredients and some of it was for cost efficiency.

But we are all about food around here... so back to my canning!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Carnitas! Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder with Citrus and Spice

I was told "good things come to those who wait." Not sure if it's an old proverb, lyric or something my mother would just repeat to her impatient children who wanted a snack before dinner. Those are the most painful dishes... the ones that you smell all afternoon while the flavors fall reluctantly in love with one another.

My mom loves playing Cupid. And to her credit, it's worked out a few times. I love playing cupid with a few ingredients- pairing them up. And with the right environment and enough time, magic happens.

It's kind of like that kid "Mike" you met at summer camp that you thought God brought to you... but really it was just a combo of July heat and a week of concentrated hormones that made you think he was the one. (haha... whatever happened to that kid?)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Colorful Heirloom Pico de Gallo

What pulls at your heart? For some people it's puppies. For others, it's babies. Still for others, red high heels. Me? Pretty tomatoes. I go weak in the knees for the confused fruit-vegetable, especially the gorgeous heirloom varietals.

And while fresh salsa could be red, why be red when you could be rainbow?!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Embarrassingly Simple: White Chocolate Dipped Cherries with Vanilla Bean

I have a secret love affair with vanilla beans.

They are so worth it every time. It's not just about the cute speckles... but the richness of aroma. I'm so inclined to this lovely bean, that when wine tasting you may commonly hear me say "mmmmm... I'm getting a little vanilla on the nose." Chris likes to say I'm always getting vanilla on the nose.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cabin Worthy Baked Oatmeal with Peaches and Walnuts

There is a cabin outside of Donnor Lake that holds a near and dear place to my heart. It's where many a New Years Eve are rung in and many Fourth of Julys are celebrated. The motto is... what happens at the cabin stays at the cabin. Well, I'm breaching the rule (with permission from the cabin queen bee of course) because Trudi's Baked Oatmeal is just too good not to share with the world. Depending what time of the year we are there, different fruit find it's way into the dish. My favorite is with peaches.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Classic Peach Pie: Summer's Glory

I love a perfect peach. When in season, nothing beats the smell of freshly picked stone fruit. Glorious. I could die and be happy after a juicy peach, but I love life and will keep cooking. I eat them slowly and slurpily, smiling all the way to the last bite.

My girlfriend, new mother of two, invited me to come and behold their bounty. They moved into a new house unaware of what fruit trees graced their backyard. Not knowing how the trees had been cared for in the past year, they new it would be a bit of a gamble. But with a new born and a toddler, she gladly took me up on bringing her lunch in exchange for a bucket of fruit!

They were small, but ripe and ready. I was determined to make the best of these beauties.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Zucchini Boats Stuffed with Turkey Sausage

Zucchinis are burst out all over! I've been bombarded by requests for recipes! My favorite sweet recipe is my chocolate zucchini bread. I recently had so many zucs I made four loafs and froze them! But it's savory time, zuc lovers!

Stuffing a vegetable. It's not that hard to be creative. You need other veg, maybe a meat (or hearty grain), an egg, some sort of bread agent for binding and good spices.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brie and Fig Crostini with Rosemary (and my) Honey

There are apps for this sort of thing. You know- enter what you have left in your fridge and it will supposedly spit out your meal options. I dare you to use your own brain. Think texture. Think sweet. Think salt. Then think of seasoning that could tie it all together.

I used leftover figs, leftover bread and leftover cheese for this. If you are really struggling, there's always Google.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Embarrassingly Simple: (Greased) Watermelon Salad with Basil and Mint

This salad IS summer. Sure, the pool, sunscreen, kids doing car washes, summer camp, Popsicles and pink toes may qualify as summer-ish. But, have you had these three incredible ingredients together? Alright I said it... three ingredients! No one wants complicated for summer. This is about as easy as it gets.

A quick watermelon story... I could tell you that my mother loves it and my father could do without it, but that's not as scandalous as this picture:

Sun-kissed man with greased fruit?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, Tahoe City, CA

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

My eyes have been trained.  I now note several things when approaching a new town: wine shops, grocery stores, golf courses and... BREWERIES.  Beer offerings can be so unusual- always so fun to taste.  When you stop at a winery, you at least have an idea of what a Cab might taste like.  Beer, dare I say it... can be even more complex.  More factors to hone in on.  Portland taught me great truths on beer assessment, and I feel my knowledge is barely scratching the foamy head surface on a fresh pint.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Soba Noodle Vegetable Salad

I'm typically a red wine vinegar and olive oil girl... but I'm telling you these Asain inspired dishes are speaking to my soul lately.

Plus the herb medley in this salad is so complimentary. It's like watching the perfect double play, each player executing their role flawlessly. The diving fielder with the quick flip to the second baseman; the split second throw to first and the painful splits to catch the ball moments before the runner touches the bag. It's a beautiful thing... basil, mint and cilantro: well done.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hello! Welcome to The Joyful Table

Welcome to The Joyful Table. I hope you choose to stay a while. Talk food. Talk life. Reminisce about recipes from your childhood. Relay new food ideas found or read about. At least, that's what I'll be doing.

I cook because I love food and I love people. My most cherished moments are around a table. Maybe it's big family style where everyone is reaching for the hot dishes and carrying on. Maybe it's an intimate table with your Spouse sharing a much needed meal out. Maybe it's old friends that you get out the best wine for. Maybe it's new friends that you hope to connect with over a simple potluck. I love that it's at the table where so many great life moments take place.

As I write this, I'm sitting at my table. My kitchen is calling out behind me. My apron is loosely tied.

For as much as I love to cook, it's the best I can hope for as a dedicated home chef- the end to the means of my cooking- The Joyful Table.



Embarrassingly Simple: Mussels Steamed in Beer

Mussels. I wrote them off as a youngster because they were part of my sand castle building. They did not belong on a plate, but better served as the stone work for the bridge over my castle's moat. But never be too afraid to try something new again. Our palates are constantly changing. I keep telling this to my husband about tomatoes. No luck so far.

A few rules of thumb for these creatures of the sea:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Embarrassingly Simple: Zucchini Bites

I've decided to start a page on the blog for all my really SIMPLE recipes. EMBARRASSINGLY SIMPLE!  These are the recipes that I would recommend for even the "I don't really cook" person. There have been many times I've been asked by dinner guests "is this on your blog?" I shake my head, "No, but it's embarrassingly simple." It's the stuff that barely requires thought or even cooking! My husband thought this would make a great series... so here's the first.

My sweet friend Lindy (and fellow Ina Garten lover) from Portland is responsible for bringing me back to my childhood. I was in her home for a dinner party and noticed a bunch of cookbooks on her counter. She told me her favorite way to discover new recipes is going to the public library to checkout cookbooks! BRILLIANT! Free! Community Adventure! I was all over it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dining Out: The Waffle Window, Portland, OR

The Waffle Window on Urbanspoon

Oh how we miss Portland!   This little nook of a best kept secret in Portland was one of our last dining out experiences in PDX before our big move to California.  You know those Gruplivingsoshresturdailydealeos that we all buy and then takes months to redeem?  Why did we wait so long on The Waffle Window?!

Precious.   Home-style.  Creative.  Very Portland.

Whether you are a local looking for brunch on a lazy Sunday, or a tourist looking for an inexpensive "totally Portland" treat, this place is perfect.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Turkey Burgers With Thoughtful Toppings

Turkey Burgs.  It's recipes like this that my husband will always say, "have you blogged this yet?"  I admit that I haven't because it's "just a turkey burger."  But if it's something I'm making often, it's probably worth blogging.  (Note: Coming soon... a whole month worth of "embarrassingly simple" recipes... stay tuned!)

I married a burger guy.  So a patty between two buns enters our menu often, but it doesn't have to be pre-made beef with american cheese and ketchup.   You can do better than that!  And still keep your meat eaters happy.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coconut Laksa with Shrimp

Here's a check on your New Year's Resolutions.   How y'all doing?!  We are more than half way through the year.  This recipe was a stab at one of my resolutions: cooking outside my comfort zone.

Every now and then it's good to buy a few ingredients that you are unfamiliar with.   With a little Google and a little courage you can become proficient with a new ingredient and THAT my friends is powerful.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lentil Salad with Prosciutto, Tomato and Basil

At it again with the lentils.  This time it's in a salad!  Cool, fresh, textured and tangy.   You won't be disappointed.  Nor will your BBQ guests this summer.

This recipe comes from a William Sonoma cookbook.  I took the liberty in adding tomatoes.  I thought it needed just a little more color and the dual acid content (tomato plus the red wine vinegar) keeps things lively on your palate!